17 September 2017

Review: THE SUSPECT, Michael Robotham - audio book

 Synopsis (author website)

Joseph O'Loughlin appears to have the perfect life - a beautiful wife, a loving daughter and a successful career as a clinical psychologist. But nothing can be taken for granted. Even the most flawless existence is only a loose thread away from unravelling. All it takes is a murdered girl, a troubled young patient and the biggest lie of his life.

When an unknown young woman is found dead with multiple stab wounds – all of them self-inflicted – the police ask Joe to help them understand the crime. Are they dealing with a murder or a suicide? Reluctantly, he agrees to help and the brutalised body he views at the mortuary turns out to be someone he knows: Catherine Mary McBride, a nurse and former colleague.

At the same time, Joe is grappling with a troubled young patient, Bobby Moran, whose violent dreams are becoming more real. As Bobby's behaviour grows increasingly erratic, Joe begins to ponder what he's done in the past and what he might do next. Is there a link between his terrible dreams and Catherine McBride?

Caught in a complex web of deceit and obsessed by images of the slain girl, Joe embarks upon a search that takes him into the darkest recesses of the human mind. Ultimately, he will risk everything to unmask the killer and save his family..


My Take

If you follow my blog you will know that I have read this title before, much closer to the date of original publication (2004).

It is the book that introduced British psychologist Professor Joseph O'Loughlin and his creator Australian writer Michael Robotham to the crime fiction world. Now the Joseph O'Loughlin/ Vincent Ruiz series has 8 titles and Robotham has produced another 4 stand-alones. He has won many awards, been translated into a myriad of languages, and even become the basis of a German TV series. (What an irony it will be if in Australia we have to view a translated version!)

Listening to this excellent audio version, unabridged of course, has given me a new appreciation of what a startling new voice Robotham was.  The writing is crisp and tight, the plot multi-stranded, but somehow all coming together at the end.

So, if you haven't read any of this series yet, there is no better place to start - at the beginning.
I will be downloading the unabridged version of #2 in the series: LOST (aka THE DROWNING MAN).

Rating: 5.0

I've also reviewed
BOMBPROOF
SHATTER #3
SHATTER (audio)
BLEED FOR ME #4
5.0, THE WRECKAGE #5
4.8, SAY YOU'RE SORRY #6
5.0, WATCHING YOU #7
4.8, IF I TELL YOU... I'LL HAVE TO KILL YOU (edit)
5.0, LIFE OR DEATH Shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Gold Dagger
4.8, CLOSE YOUR EYES
5.0, THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS   
 

15 September 2017

Review: CRIMSON LAKE, Candice Fox

  • this edition published by Penguin Random House Australia 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-14-378190-5
  • 389 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

12.46: Thirteen-year-old Claire Bingley stands alone at a bus stop
12.47: Ted Conkaffey parks his car beside her
12.52: The girl is missing . . .

Six minutes – that’s all it took to ruin Detective Ted Conkaffey’s life. Accused but not convicted of Claire’s abduction, he escapes north, to the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.

Amanda Pharrell knows what it’s like to be public enemy number one. Maybe it’s her murderous past that makes her so good as a private investigator, tracking lost souls in the wilderness. Her latest target, missing author Jake Scully, has a life more shrouded in secrets than her own – so she enlists help from the one person in town more hated than she is: Ted.

But the residents of Crimson Lake are watching the pair’s every move. And for Ted, a man already at breaking point, this town is offering no place to hide . . .

My Take

Amanda Pharrell and Ten Conkaffey must surely rate among the oddest detective duo ever created. Amanda is a convicted killer while Ted is an ex-detective, accused of  child abduction, but not convicted. Importantly, not acquitted either. He has spent 8 months on remand, then released without conviction, leaving a broken marriage, trying to find anonymity in far North Queensland.

Amanda is running a detective agency and both she and Ted have been pointed towards each other. Her current case is that of a missing, almost certainly dead, writer. Amanda is being employed by Stella, Jake Scully's wife. She primarily wants evidence that Jake is dead so that she can claim his life insurance and get on with her life.

Once Ted teams up with Amanda he becomes an object of interest for the locals and in particular two local policemen who try to make things as unpleasant as possible for him. Journalists and local media make plenty of the new detective partnership and local hoons visit Ted's house regularly.

A very gritty book, full of North Queensland steaminess and danger.  Several mysteries to be solved. Good reading.

My rating: 4.6


I've also read
5.0, HADES 
4.3, EDEN

About the author

Candice Fox is the middle child of a large, eccentric family from Sydney’s western suburbs composed of half-, adopted and pseudo siblings. The daughter of a prison parole officer and an enthusiastic foster-carer, Candice spent many of her early Christmases travelling to a Sydney correctional facility in the family minibus to knock on prison cell windows, run around the razor-wired yard and eat fruitcake prepared by inmates. While her mother and stepfather developed an ever-growing mob of Sydney’s most disadvantaged children throughout her later youth, entertainment had to be cheap. She spent her school holidays exploring free, open spaces – farms, bushland and cemeteries.
As a cynical and trouble-making teenager, her crime and gothic fiction writing was an escape from the calamity of her home life.
Bankstown born and bred, she failed to conform to military life in a brief stint as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy at age eighteen. At twenty, she turned her hand to academia, and taught high school through two undergraduate and two postgraduate degrees. In 2015, she began collaborating with best selling author James Patterson on a series of books featuring Detective Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue.
Candice’s books Hades, Eden and Fall are published with Random House Australia and are in multiple translations. Hades and Eden both won Ned Kelly Awards presented by the Australian Crime Writers Association.

14 September 2017

Review: THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY, Caroline Overington

  • this edition published by Harper Collins Publishers 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-7322-9975
  • 332 pages
Synopsis (back cover)

Loren Wynne-Estes appears to have it all: she's the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who's landed a handsome husband, a stunning home, a fleet of shiny cars and two beautiful daughters ...

Then one day a fellow parent taps Loren on the shoulder outside the grand school gate, hands her a note ... and suddenly everything's at stake.

Loren's Facebook-perfect marriage is spectacularly exposed revealing an underbelly of lies and betrayal. What is uncovered will scandalise a small town, destroy lives and leave a family divided.

But who is to be believed and who is to blame? Will the right person be brought to justice or is there one who got away?

My Take

The blurb on the back of the book tries very hard not to reveal any plot details, and so I think I should follow that line. That makes reviewing it extremely hard.

The book is set in a suburb of Los Angeles with deep social divisions demarcated by the river that runs through the suburb. Loren and her family(husband and twin girls aged 5) live on High Side but she was born on Low Side. When she was young her mother left her father for another woman who already had a daughter Loren's age, Molly. Loren eventually goes to work in New York where she meets a man from High Side. She returns to Los Angeles and and they eventually marry.

The story is told by a number of narrators: Molly, a journal that Loren wrote, a journalist interviewing Loren's husband David, and the judge in a trial where David is being tried for murder,

It is a book that holds the reader's interest throughout but I guarantee that most readers will not predict the ending.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Caroline Overington is a two-time Walkley Award-winning journalist who is currently a senior writer and columnist with The Australian. She is the author of two non-fiction books, Only in New York and Kickback which is about the UN oil-for-food scandal in Iraq. Since then she has had her first novel Ghost Child published in October 2009 to great acclaim.

She has written eleven books, including LAST WOMAN HANGED, which won the Davitt Award for True Crime Writing in 2015.  Caroline has also profiled many of the world's most famous women, including Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton.

I've also read
4.4, SISTERS OF MERCY
4.5, NO PLACE LIKE HOME
4.7, I CAME TO SAY GOODBYE
4.5, CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?

11 September 2017

Review: JOURNEY TO DEATH, Leigh Russell

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2150 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (February 9, 2016)
  • Publication Date: February 9, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B014KVMWQ4
Synopsis (Amazon)

A deadly secret lurks in an island’s history, buried deep but not forgotten. And it is about to come to light.

Lucy Hall arrives in the Seychelles determined to leave her worries behind. The tropical paradise looks sun-soaked and picture-perfect—but as Lucy soon discovers, appearances can be very deceptive.

As black clouds begin to gather over what promised to be a relaxing family break, Lucy realises that her father stands in the eye of the coming storm. A shadow from his past is threatening to destroy all that he holds dear—including the lives of his loved ones.

A dark truth is about to explode into their lives, and that truth is going to hit them right between the eyes.

My take:

Leigh Russell is quite a prolific author with 16 Books published since 2009. JOURNEY TO DEATH is the first of 3 in the Lucy Hall series.

Lucy Hall comes to the Seychelles with her parents just after a romance breakup. She has sustained an emotional collapse and her parents are trying to help her recover.

While they know that her father was evacuated (forcibly) from the island 30 years before, his wife and daughter know little about his personal life at that time. Their idyllic holiday is shattered when the wife, Angela, disappears. In the meantime Lucy begins to think that someone is targetting their family.

The main narrator of the tale is Lucy and we see the action mainly through her eyes. However occasionally the reader is told what is happening to Angela, and the tension and suspense ratchet up.
In the long run the story was handled well, and I feel tempted to follow Lucy into the second book in the series.

My rating: 4.4
About the author (Fantastic Fiction)
LEIGH RUSSELL is described as "a brilliant talent" by Jeffery Deaver. CUT SHORT (2009) was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award for Best First Novel. Road Closed (2010) was listed as a Top Read on Eurocrime. With Dead End (2011) Leigh's detective Geraldine Steel was Number 1 on amazon kindle's bestseller chart for female sleuths.

10 September 2017

Review: THE QUEEN'S CORGI: ON PURPOSE, David Michie

  • first published in 2016 by Coach Books.
  • ISBN 978-1-4019-5069-9
  • 186 pages
Synopsis (Amazon)

‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if newspapers did more to share stories and insights that were really meaningful? Things that might help people lead more purposeful lives.’ The Queen glanced over at him, uncertainly. ‘Tricky business, persuading the media to lift their sights from terror and trivia. Every one of us has tried.’ Pushing myself up so that I was balancing on my rear end, I fixed Kate with a pleading expression. She was a soft touch when it came to scones. There was a pause while the family glanced in my direction. Before Kate said, ‘Well, not every family member.’


Rescued from unscrupulous breeders who plan to destroy him because of his floppy ear, when the Queen’s littlest corgi arrives at Windsor Castle, he finds himself in a world of red carpets, gilded chambers – and not a pile of dirty laundry to be seen.

Charming his way into the affections of the royal household, Nelson offers a dog’s-eye view of life with the Queen. He eavesdrops on her encounters with celebrities, philanthropists and advisers, catching rare insights into the secrets of a purposeful life. Through one of Her Majesty’s most mysterious advisers, he discovers how the ancient ways and powerful symbols continue to exert a transformative presence. He also becomes familiar with the Queen’s most surprising quality: her gentle but firm expectation that everyone she encounters is striving to be the best that they can be.

The Queen’s Corgi bursts with zest, humour and adventure. Romping through the litany of Nelson’s misdemeanours are a warm-heartedness and deep wisdom sure to delight anyone who has known the smiling face and warm tongue of a dog. It is not by chance that you hold this book in your hands.

My Take

Not my usual fare, and definitely not crime fiction.

This is very similar in format to the Michie's other book that I have read THE DALAI LAMA'S CAT, a fictional vehicle for David Michie's Buddhist philosophy.

It makes for interesting reading and puts Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the Royal family in interesting light. The Queen is portrayed as a deep and empathetic thinker, as are the younger members of the family.

The novel is a series of events involving Nelson, the young Corgi, which test human tolerance and illustrate Buddhist concepts.

My rating: 4.2

I've also read 4.2, THE DALAI LAMA'S CAT

7 September 2017

Review: DARK PLACES, Gillian Flynn

Synopsis (publisher)

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben.

Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

My take

Libby Day's life has been a disaster - at 7 years of age she testified that her brother Ben, then 15, had killed her mother and and two sisters. The murders were horrific and Libby, the youngest of the family, was left traumatised. She first of all lived with her aunt and then in foster homes. Ben went prison for life and has been there for 25 years. Libby, haunted by the possibility that she was wrong in her testimony, has never wanted to visit him.

When Libby is contacted by Lyle from the Kill Club, she is not sure what he wants. She agrees to visit the club and finds that many of its members think that Ben was innocent of the crimes and certainly of the other things that Ben was accused of. To her own horror, she finds that she wants to know the truth, and paid by money provided by members of the Kill Club agrees to visit Ben in Gaol and then to track down people who might know what actually happened.

There is a lot of tension generated in the book as we read on two time frames: the present mainly through Libby's eyes, and a chronology of what happened in the last days and hours before the murders.

In places this is a very noir read, a truly nasty picture of what growing up in an impoverished family in Kansas in the mid 1980s was like. This book did remind me of Truman Capote's IN COLD BLOOD, also set in Kansas, and left me wondering if it was based on a true story. I'm still wondering: the Kill Club certainly exists. The novel also reminded me of SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE which I read a month or so back.

From Wikipedia: The novel deals with class issues in rural America, intense poverty and the Satanic cult hysteria that swept the United States in the 1980s. Dark Places was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and won the Dark Scribe Magazine Black Quill Award for Dark Genre Novel of the Year. It was also listed on the New York Times Best Seller List for hardcover fiction for two consecutive weeks. A film adaptation of the novel was released on August 7, 2015.

My Rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.8, GONE GIRL
4.2, THE GROWN UP 

2 September 2017

What I read in August 2017

A moderate month in terms of the number of books read, although some very good books.
 My pick of the month was WOLVES IN THE DARK by Gunnar Staalesen

This is the second I have read in the Varg Veum series, translated from Norwegian.  There are not many of the Staalesen titles available in English although he appears to be a very popular author.
He recently won the Petrona Award for WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE.

See what others have read this month.

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